Work commitments and a brief city break have kept me away from writing and social media for nearly two weeks, but I am not complaining. It is often good to have such absences to recharge the batteries, so to speak. Although I say that I had a break the fact is that although I did not sit down to a keyboard I did an awful lot of thinking about my work.
I am one of those people who can spend an awful lot of time in their head. I tend to think literary things through before committing pen to paper; hence I don’t tend to have copious notes lying around concerning plots, characters, or supporting information. In fact I tend to ignore the latter until after I have at least a first draft developing nicely.
So while I was away I spent time thinking over ‘For Rapture of Ravens’ and trying to decide what, if anything, needed to be added or removed to make it a better read. I plan on submitting the book for publication sometime between the end of July and the beginning of September and in all honesty I have only one more review to do as I complete the formatting of the text. I did this previously with ‘The War Wolf’ and it proved quite successful.
The result of all this cognitive exercise is that there seems to be precious little that I need to do to the current version. I ma happy with the way the characters have developed, especially some of the personages who were somewhat in the background in ‘The War Wold’, people like Aldfrid, Aethelmaer, and Thrydwulf, all of whom come to the fore at last.
With regards to the plot this was somewhat more difficult as certain key-points are literally carved in stone, the historical events I mean, and I could not deviate from them without risking the integrity of the book itself. This is a fact of life for anyone who writes historical fiction and it is something that you have to accept when you start or else you are not writing historical fiction but fantasy along the lines of what if the Battle of Stamford Bridge occurred two weeks later? The ‘what if’ alternative history idea is something that I am saving for my next project, it has no place in ‘The Sorrow Song Trilogy’.
One area that an author can develop with more freedom is the sub-plot. The tension surrounding the characters like Coenred is obvious; he is a warrior who is going to fight in the last three battles of the Saxon world. For characters like Mildryth this is a little different. As a woman she can only be a spectator to such events, but that does not mean that she cannot also be a fighter, albeit in a slightly different way, which brings me to the character of Wulfhere.
Wulfhere is a bad man, there’s no two ways about it. A thief, murderer, and liar; in fact the perfect counterpoint to Coenred. It seemed inevitable that they would both become enamoured with the same woman if for different reasons. Women are so often the victims in life but I did not want to portray Mildryth that way. I wanted her to be strong, courageous even, a woman who could rely upon herself in most situations. It seemed that by casting Wulfhere’s shadow over her those qualities could be developed as the greater story of the Saxons’ conflict with the Vikings grew in weight and intensity.
There is a scene in ‘For Rapture of Ravens’ where Mildryth once again comes face to face with her nemesis Wulfhere. This scene is a further development of the one at the end of the battle in ‘The War Wolf’, but whereas young Edwin was on hand then to help drive Wulfhere away this time Mildryth must do the task herself. At first this encounter was just an episode in the story of these two characters but it has since developed into being a catalyst in changing Wulfhere for the worse. Having spent some time thinking about it I believe that this is the right path for them to follow. It makes Wulfhere more dangerous, that is true, but also gives Mildryth an opportunity to display her own courage and fortitude before the kind of men who once ruined her life.
The outcome is not the conclusion of their relationship, that will come in the third volume, but it sets up their final encounter nicely to be the kind of dramatic event that you might expect from a brave woman who refuses to become a victim once again and a man who is now obsessed with destroying the woman who is a constant reminder to him of what he is not but has so often longed to be.
If my schedule runs to plan then hopefully you will be able to read both this and the main story of the Saxons’ epic struggle with King Hardrada of Norway when ‘For Rapture of Ravens’ makes its’ appearance very soon.